Is the codes and standards community ready for risk assessments in NFPA documents?
That was one of a handful of questions posed by William Koffel of Koffel Associates, a fire protection engineering consulting firm, at the Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications Conference (SUPDET) in Orlando. Koffel highlighted how risk assessments have appeared in NFPA's codes and standards and why it may become more prominent in future editions of documents.
For example, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, has included a risk assessment in the document for a number of years, but Koffel notes that the assessment is "voluntary." Additionally, NFPA 654, Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions from the Manufacturing, Processing, and Handling of Combustible Particulate Solids, includes an optional risk evaluation to determine the necessary level of protection in facilities.
However, the 2012 edition of NFPA 99, Health Care Facilities, was "the first document I'm aware of that specifically says you have do a risk assessment," says Koffel.
The Fire Protection Research Foundation has developed a guidance document that can assist NFPA technical committees in incorporating risk concepts in NFPA documents. Koffel urged SUPDET attendees to ponder the implications of requirements on risk analysis, such as whether authorities having jurisdictions and code users are ready to take on these analyses.